Customer Reviews: Rancilio Silvia Espresso Machine with Iron Frame and Stainless Steel Side Panels, 11.4 by 13.4-Inch
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on September 20, 2009
This is a beautiful machine! I started learning about brewing espresso at home with a Gaggia Coffee. I've since stepped up to the Silvia and I wish I had bought it right away. The espresso I produce with it is far superior, never sour or bitter if I use the right amount and tamp it properly, and I can make microfoam. I also appreciate its heaviness, good looks, quiet operation and metal steam wand.

Many say - and it bears repeating - that you will only get the results you are looking for at home if you invest in a burr grinder of at least Rancilio Rocky or Gaggia MDF quality, grind right before brewing and use beans roasted within weeks, not months! I have had disappointing results with other grinders and all preground espresso including expensive Illy, etc.

Shop around and be sure to get free shipping, because this thing weighs a ton. I have seen good package deals where you can get the Silvia and Rocky together; with no tax and free shipping plus some free goodies such as a stainless steel tamper, you will be in business and might have some cash left over for the beans. Of course the instruction booklet is nearly worthless, but you can find some great videos on YouTube to show you what to do with all that stuff once you get it home.

If you have better things to spend your money on, like mortgage and groceries, or if you aren't too picky, look elsewhere; maybe try a stovetop moka pot. If you think you will be making espresso for years to come get this machine, a good grinder and a water filter, and some freshly roasted beans from Intelligentsia; then you will want a collection of little cups for serving your creations, and your friends might begin to think you are an insufferable coffee snob... and at that point, you will be. Trust me, your buddies most likely do not want to hear about your machine's brass portafilter and temperature stability.

This is NOT a cheap hobby. Maybe you should consider supporting your local coffee shop instead! As for me, I'm in too deep. Let me know if someone starts a twelve step program for espresso addicts. Enjoy!
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on May 17, 2011
If you are anything like myself, you too have probably seen the many reviews and warning online citing how finicky the Rancilio Silvia is with its wild temperature swings and its taste for exact grinds. Like myself, you too are not bothered by any of that and are still considering the Silvia.

So in all fairness, there are plenty of GREAT things about this machine; It is good-looking (but design-wise it fails to make any statement, it is neither modern nor retro, doesn't look commercial but also doesn't look like a home machine). Great construction too (though slightly crude). It has features galore; brass boiler and brew group, large tank, ample steaming pressure etc. It is famously reliable and been made with little change for over a decade. On paper it seems to have it all, and it is the only machine of its class at this price point. The question is however, "can it pull a decent shot of espresso?" The short answer for it is, yes, it certainly can - but not straight out of the box on its own. It will require additional equipment, time and investment.

- First, spend at least a $350 on a burr grinder. Yes, you've heard this before and refused to believe it. It's true. This machine is so picky about grind that it will change on you with the room temperature and humidity. Be prepared to dump lots of shots to the garbage on a regular basis while re-adjusting. Let's assume your tamping technique is perfect, (and that you are using a good tamper -not the wrong-size plastic joke that comes with this machine, frankly an insult, don't even try it). With that in mind, some of the finest grinds from top-of-the-line grinders will yield extraction faster than the speed of light (double shot in 8 seconds), producing sour shot with poor crema. Grind just 0.1 point too fine and you will get a slow burnt, bitter drizzle from even the sweetest roast. Adding the minimal capable burr grinder realistically means that you should be willing to spend $1000 for the entire experience, so don't let the $650 price tag fool you. There is also $25-$80 you need to spend on a tamper. This is a must. In short, comparison-shop the Silvia against $1000 machines that need no grinder like the Expobar Office Pulser, Pasquini Livietta or La Pavoni PC-16 -not against the Francis-Francis X1 or the Baby Gaggia which may not seem to be at the same class at all but will give you much better shots with far less overall investment.

- Secondly, be prepared to learn to temperature-surf. Temperature swings are a major issue with this machine, so even with the perfect grind and tamping; your shot can still easily burn or come out weak and sour. Temperature surfing is acceptable when you try to improve a really great shot to Godliness, but if you can't achieve merely a consistent basic decent shot without surfing, you will quickly find it to be time-consuming and laborious; an annoyance that is not much of a joy as a morning routine.

Now there are hundreds of guides and videos all over the internet on how to temperature surf the Rancilio Silvia online (I especially liked "Cheating Mrs. Silvia"). There is even an entire aftermarket dedicated to digital temperature controllers for this machine. Wait, wait, can someone please stop the madness? Common sense... Doesn't the fact that this machine cannot brew espresso straight out of the box without all this nonsense raise some red flags to you? Shouldn't you expect a $650 machine to -at the very least give you some basic version of espresso without turning you into a hacker?

I can understand Rancilio not wanting to fix the brew group. After all, this grind-fussiness sells them thousands of their Rocky model grinders every year. I do however find it BAFFLING that after 10+ years and 3 versions of this machine, the temperature control issue had not been addressed. Thermocouples and PIDs are cheap and reliable, and so are dial thermometers and pressure gauges -which could be a lifesaver for users of this machine. In fact, these are standard features on far cheaper machines. What gives?

So like you, I too thought I would get over the learning curve and can win this machine over in spite of reviews and warnings. I am an ex-barista who had the pleasure to work on anything from La Pavoni, Gaggia, Expobar, Brasillia, Pasquini and Elektra to Francis-Francis and Ascado, using some of the world's finest beans and pro-grinders like Mazzer. I am embarrassed to admit that I spent the past week tossing about 400 shots to the trash before coming to terms with the fact that this machine is not reasonably designed to deliver a decent shot on a regular basis without extreme fuss and expensive grinder, which I have no space for in my Manhattan kitchen. (I also don't believe that my wife or guests would be able to operate it). At this price point I would take a La Pavoni or Expobar machine any day over this. And if you really only have $650 to spend, then get a Francis-Francis X1 or Gaggia Classic or even the super-automatic Gaggia Brera. You WILL get consistently far better shots and be able to use a wider range of grinds (even ESE pods) and some cash in your pocket too. The Rancilio Silvia has so much potential but I am sadly sending it back and getting a more capable machine. My recommendation: don't be tempted.
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on December 26, 2006
This machine is the perfect blend of quality, durability, and ease of repair for a home machine under $500. It makes espresso that rivals any you can buy at a coffee house.

I've been making home espresso for 25 years and have used many different machines of various prices which all died. I bought one for $250 from Starbucks which died in one year. They told me parts were not available. This machine is practically bullet-proof. I've had it for over 5 years and it is still running like new. Sure it hurts to spend this much on an espresso machine, but how many $250 machines will you go through? Learn from my mistake(s) and get a good one.

All the parts inside are commercial or semi-commercial grade. Anyone who works on commercial espresso machines can work on this one, and the parts are readily available. It's all stainless and cast iron. Very nice.

It has a 3-way solenoid, which you want, trust me. The 3-way solenoid lets pressure escape from the basket when you switch off the pump so that the coffee grounds fall out of the portafilter handle in a solid little disk instead of a soupy mess.

You DO NEED a good grinder made for espresso to use this machine. The pump puts out a solid 9 bar, which means most grinders can't get the coffee fine enough. A burr grinder is the only way to go. This makes the grounds fine enough that a shot will take about 20 seconds to make. Any less time for a shot and it means your coffee is too coarse. If you don't want to buy a grinder right now, there are some good preground espresso coffees in a can (such as Illy), but it will go stale fast. You'll want the grinder.

If you want great espresso, and a reliable machine, you can't go wrong with the Silvia. Take a bit of time to learn proper technique and you'll be happy with this one.
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VINE VOICEon August 13, 2014
Hello everyone,

I'm a newbie in this world. Few months before I thought espresso was written with an X (express-o) to give you an idea that espresso is in itself a language and a language I didn't spoke that much (if any at all) so if you're like me few months ago, chances are you've never tasted good coffee before, you just don't know it. :)

First I have to admit Coffee was never my thing but from some time now I wanted an espresso machine just for the look of it, not exactly for the coffee... showing off maybe? decoration? I really don't know but the fact I bought a DeLonghi Kmix 5-Cup Drip Coffee Maker, Yellow coupled with a Cuisinart DCG-12BC Grind Central Coffee Grinderlast Christmas for whatever of the above reasons and kept them both as an stationary display for about 4 months. It was very overwhelming for me trying to understand the whys and hows of the espresso making and at the end of the day, I just wanted delicious sweet lattes without all the fuss.

Few months ago I started trying to understand how to use it and presto! got locked in preparing my lattes at least twice a week and reading about espresso from time to time enjoying the occasions with my beloved wife. After some trial and error I started getting better lattes each time but then, curiosity about what could be next in this new (at least for me) world of coffee taste was growing inside me so I started looking for more info here in the internet.

It was pretty overwhelming because you can find many options and prices, at first I was looking at "Super Automatic" kind of machines like the KRUPS EA8250001 Espresseria Fully Automatic Espresso Machine with Built-in Conical Burr Grinder, Black which is a lot cheaper if you consider you don't need to buy an expensive coffee grinder as well but for some reason, I was interested in becoming a real Barista (which I'm not yet) so I forgot everything fully automatic and started looking at the semi-automatic (as they are called by connoisseurs) espresso machines and here's how I met the Rancilio Silvia V3.

At first I was worried about the size so to a local espresso machines shop I went to see the Silvia in person, I have to say I was not ready to buy but once I had the Silvia in front of me and a credit card in my wallet... you can now imagine what happened next... Now I had more debt and a big smile on my face carrying the Silvia all over the mall and let me tell you, this thing is heavy but not that big.

Now in my house, I realized my first mistake even though I've read about it a thousand times... I used to be a Radio Amateur when I was younger and the best you could do was to spend 70% on the antenna and 30% on the radio... It is very similiar here, you have to buy not a decent but a very good coffee grinder with an espresso machine like this Rancilio if you want coffee because believe me, If you use the standard blade grinder like the one I had, you're going to taste the worst coffee in the world, and here's why:

When using low end home espresso machines, they use a flow restricted filter basket which means, you can use normal grind coffee and the flow valve will regulate the water flow therefore, good coffee is very easy to achieve because the coffee extraction time is up to an extend controlled, but with higher level home espresso machines with non-restricted filter baskets like the Silvia, the only thing that controls the water flow through your coffee and therefore control the extraction is the coffee grind itself.

That said if the coffee grind is too coarse, the water flows too quick and the coffee you get is on the acid side but believe me when I say, If you try a blade coffee grinder, very coarse is the best you'll ever get so the coffee is not going to be only acidic, it is going to be horrible!!! full stop.

There's no way in the world you can get the kind of grinding you need for an espresso machine like this with a blade coffee grinder, let alone get some level of consistency. That said, buying the very best "bur" coffee grinder you can afford is really a must. I didn't believe it but it is true, very true so don't take my word for it, read all over the internet about espresso coffee grinder and believe those experts, they know best!

So to the shop I went once more, the credit card once more, more debt and carrying a Rancilio HSD-ROC-SS Rocky Coffee Grinder all over the mall I was... again. Since then, I've been learning and practicing, trial and error with every type of coffee I could find until I got with the grind grade that suits my taste better and now I just don't want to drink coffee anywhere else but mine... Things are soooo different when you get a real espresso even though I'm still a newbie... Now coffee has a different dimension, it has how can I put it... more complexity? Body? I don't know how to express it but the thing is, now the coffee is sort of oily but in the good way, like an alcohol-less liquor perhaps? Wonderful for sure!

Now that we have read ( And I appreciate you have come this far ) that the Silvia is very good doing what is supposed to do and coming from Rancilio, it is not like anybody is surprised don't you think? I just wanted to give you some why a higher level espresso machine could worth the effort and give you some well known advice to not to skip on the grinder but how is to live with the Silvia?

First of all, the Rancilio Silvia v3 has a timeless industrial design that I don't think will ever age, it is soooo simple and so well designed I don't think there's a single place on earth it won't look just great. Yes you can find more elaborated designs and more trendy ones but the problem with those is that they may look good today but may not tomorrow so the Looks goes to the Silvia.

To keep it in top condition, I use the Franke Inox Cream Stainless Steel Sink Cleaner, 8.5 oz Tube - Model: 903 which is by country miles better than anything else I've ever encountered to clean and maintain stainless steel appliances, you'll only need some microfiber cloths like the Cobra Gold Plush Jr. Microfiber Towels 3 Pack I use on my car and now on my appliances and you're all set to keep it looking like new!!!

The Silvia has only one boiler, a very good one by the way but just one, why this is important? because you use the very same boiler to steam milk and to pull shots therefore, you'll have to wait from shot to steam for the temperature to raise for steaming and then, you'll have to wait from steam to shot for water to cool down. Yes you can accelerate the cooling down but not the heat up process. This is not by any means a show stopper but definitely something to consider.

The porta-filter, is made entirely from solid brass so is the boiler and the group so if you use your machine properly, I don't think you'll need more than electricity, good coffee, very good quality water and in some time you may need de-calcification or a group gasket but nothing else. I really think this machine could last a lifetime.

One word about the water. The harder you water, the more maintenance it'll need so I also recommend the PurePro 6 stage Reverse Osmosis Water Purification System With Mineral Filter, 50 Gallons Per Day I have in my house to minimize calcification over the time and overall, to improve the quality of your coffee.

This is a precision machine that combined with a good bur coffee grinder gives you the ability to fine tune your coffee and that is all by itself, very interesting indeed and the difference between Coffee, Good Coffee, Very Good Coffee and Great Coffee. Right now I think I'm in the good to very good zone but I'm really looking forward to get into the great one.

By the way, don't forget the tamper. The plastic one included is useless at best and a tamping mat, knock box like Cafelat Tubbi Knockbox Espresso Grounds Bin a scale, a cleaning brush and maybe a iSi Mini Easy Whip, 1/2-Pint, White, Cream Whipper coupled with Creamright Ultra-Purewhip 50-Pack N2O Whipped Cream Chargers and you're all set.

Enough about coffee, now let's add some milk!

This is where things has been getting tricky for me. I may be between the good and very good coffee zone but I'm barely getting into the good latte here. I do have got into the very good zone twice and into the latte art just once of those two times I've just mentioned. I'm still trying to get there and for me, this has been the most difficult part. For now, foamy milk for capuccinos... no problem whatsoever but great lattes? not even close. This challenge, far from discouraging me from keep going just makes the whole thing more interesting :)

To use the milk steamer, just turn on the steamer switch, wait until is hot enough (a light will tell you so no worries there), open the steamer valve to an empty pitcher to get rid of water from the pipe and you're all set to start frothing your milk. One word of caution, Steaming means turning the water on the boiler to steam but the Silvia's water pump won't work in this mode, so you'll have to open the steam valve and turn on the water pump, to take water from the tank to the boiler either to protect the boiler heater from burning or overheating or to cool down the boiler to coffee temperature after steaming.

Take a look at the customer's images galleries to have an idea about how this setup looks and the latte art (so far the only one I've ever achieved) I mentioned before.

By the way, Even though I have the Rancilio HSD-ROC-SS Rocky Coffee Grinder I do recommend tha Rancilio HSD-ROC-SD Rocky Coffee Grinder doserless version because is far more easy to live with unless you're going to pull tens of shots daily.

Hope you found this info useful and thanks for reading!!!

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on June 14, 2005
I have owned several different expresso machines in different price ranges. Hands down, this machine is the best I've ever used. The machine works exactly as it is supposed to - I use it every day, sometimes a couple times per day and the espresso never changes - it's always delicious, and the steamed milk comes out perfectly. I've even left the machine on all day a couple of times, and it still does not affect the machine - it keeps working like it's brand new. The only downside is that it takes about 45 minutes for this machine to heat up. HOWEVER, there are websites out there that can tell you how to get around this and have your shot of espresso in about 10 minutes.
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on October 27, 2008
So you want quality espresso without having to dish out $1.50 for a single shot at your favorite coffee shop, then this is the machine for you.

It takes some time to get use to if you've never used a manual machine before and believe it or not Manual is BETTER! Has anything in this world tasted better when done automatically?

This machine produces very good quality espresso. You can't go wrong with this machine, but here are some things you'll need to know that haven't been said. This machine has only one boiler so you have to wait from the point of making a shot of espresso to heating up the boiler again for the steam process.

Also DO NOT follow the instruction dvd that they give you on how to steam milk. Look at youtube and always do your shot of espresso first than steam your milk, not the other way around.

1. Get a quality grinder. The Rocky is OK to Good. If you can afford a step up than go with a the Mazzer Mini. I just bought my Rocky about 4 months ago and see the down falls of this grinder but it works.

2. It doesn't have a PID controller which will accurately set the temp the perfect degree which will give you a consistent quality shot everytime. Ebay has them as well as WholeLatteLove.

3. Get a quality tamper (the thing you use to press down on the espresso in the portafilter) Spend about $50-75. The one it comes with the machine is a joke.

4. Do not buy any special 3 hole tips for the steamer on this machine. The tip it comes with works perfect for steaming milk that looks like perfect snow.

5. Get a few cleaning brushes, 12oz and 20oz pitcher for when making 1 or 2 drinks and cleaning solution for your machine. Deep clean at least once per month

6. Remove the white film on the top of the espresso machine.

7. Get a timer to time your shots. Should be about 22-25 seconds long.

I would give it 5 stars if it had a PID controller and a better knob to turn on the steam wand, but nothing comes close without paying $1500
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on April 11, 2005
This espresso maker is a beautiful, quality machine. However, it is advertised as simple to use and that "one can have great espresso, lattes, cappucinos and more, just with the touch of a button". This, unfortunately, is not the case. My husband and I have had espresso makers that were easy to use. But, this maker requires finesse. We carefully followed the directions time and time again only to have produced warm, bitter and or weak espresso. When I spoke with a person at the distributing company, he told me that making espresso with this machine is an art and that one has to work at it. He stated that we needed a thermometer ("digital is best") to test the water temperature, that we needed finer grinds of espresso and that we would just have to experiment. He stated that these machines are not for novices. I told him that the advertisement stated this was a simple machine to use and he replied that that is wrong.
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on February 11, 2012
This review is intended for the people who are like me (in that they're willing to consider an expensive home machine for coffee but are not coffee making experts themselves).

I tend to take a long time to research purchases beforehand, but this one took longer than most & was fraught with trial and error. I ordered a "used like new" Nespresso based Latissima Plus by Delonghi, but it arrived with broken parts & never got tried out. (It also looked very plastic-y to me for $400.) I went through a couple $100-ish machines which broke just as other reviewers had said they would, and then I decided it was time to find the best pure-value regardless of price & just see if we could afford it.

What I came down to were either the sub-$100 machines by Mr. Coffee or Delonghi (you can literally buy 10 of them for the price of this Rancilio), this "Miss Silvia" model, or the La Pavoni handle-bar machines. The "professional" black-base model on Amazon looks like the best deal at the moment.

So, why this?

I liked the idea of a machine that had a reputation for lasting a long time. If a machine is built to last, then it will have always have my full attention to its maintenance. It means less waste, an appreciation of those people who endeavored to produce a high quality machine in disposable times, and fewer purchases to make in the future. The more I read, the more I found that machines like the Pavoni & others with "marine brass boilers" & other commercial grade parts lasted a long time & produced great tasting coffee. So, I went with this one for the slightly lower cost and vast amount of positive commentary online.

What I've found is that I don't have to worry about perfect tamp pressure, "temperature surfing," or any of the other things that had previously made this sound (to me) like a lot of complexity for a lot of money. You just read the instructions, follow them, and drink your coffee.

The coffee quality is terrific.

So, while I wouldn't presume to take away from those who've identified wonderfully specific ways to operate this machine (they probably can make a better cup of coffee from this than I can right now), I'd say to everyone that this thing is simple, top quality, and a great choice if you're willing-but-nervous to spend so much on a small appliance. I hope this helps & am happy to be able to write so positively about something like this.

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on January 10, 2007
Miss Silvia is not for everyone, but she can reward a little effort and patience with truly great espresso. If, after reading this, you still think $200 is too much to spend on a grinder, look instead at machines with a pressurized portafilter (Saeco/Starbucks Barista).

Start with the freshest coffee. You might as well discover home roasting. It's very economical, easy, and fun. In fact, you can quickly pay for Miss Silvia with your savings when you pay $3-5/lb for green coffee!

Trust me on this: Your grinder is FAR MORE IMPORTANT than your machine, and few grinders under $200 have a fine enough adjustment mechanism to find the "sweet spot" for the particular bean you're using. Grind controls extraction rate, and you're shooting for 20sec for a double shot. If one click on the grinder throws your extraction 5-6'll quickly become frustrated. Good espresso grinders have at least 40-50 settings. Of course, you need to time your shots to get an idea of what is happening.

Give her time to warm up. Google "silvia temperature surfing" to learn how to manually control the brewing temperature, or "PID Silvia" to give Miss Silvia digital temperature control (you now have a $1000 machine for $550).

Put it all together, and you'll soon see just how good espresso can be. Should you currently be addicted to Starbucks, this will cure you. You might even start looking forward to the morning's first espresso shots around dinner time!

Why Miss Silvia? A reasonably sized brass boiler (thermal mass). Heavy chromed brass portafilter (more thermal mass). Three-way Solenoid valve (depressurizes the group head after pulling a shot). Very well documented on-line. Easily serviceable with widely available parts. Good looking, too!

Final recommendation: If you can't afford BOTH Miss Silvia and the grinder, buy a great grinder and an inexpensive but good Gaggia with lots of brass but no 3-way valve.
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on May 19, 2010
I have owned Miss Silvia for about 6 years and still use her at weekends to treat ourselves to the wonderful coffee she makes. Some of the reasons I chose Miss Silvia were due to the construction, performance, amount of steam, looks, and feedback from others. She has proven to be a very reliable machine and continues to give us much pleasure.
Upgrades - It looks like the only changes between V2 and V3 are cosmetic - brew group handle, drip tray design and the steam knob. I guess why change something if it is working very well. The inside of the machine is built very well, marine brass boiler with a 1Kw heater bring her up to temperature quickly, and a 3 way solenoid to stop spit back.
There are a couple of areas to watch, which other reviewers have alluded to -
Grind - I started off with a Braun bur wheel grinder and I got intermittent results with the quality of the tamp. A couple of years ago I upgraded to Rocky her brother and the quality of the tamp improved greatly. (Once you work out the right setting for the coffee you are using)
Tamping tool - The one that came with Miss Silvia was too small, I have never understood why they shipped the unit with the wrong size tamping tool. This also impacted how even the pressure was on the tamp. I upgraded that as well to one that fit the filter and now I get reliable and excellent results
Leaks - As mentioned above, one of the other reasons why I purchased this unit is that it has a built in 3 way solenoid to stop spit back through the brew group when using the steam wand or visa versa. Even though when I used her last I completely close the steam valve, as she is warming up for the next use, I get spits and dribbles from the steam wand and I have to turn the steam valve once again to close it off. This might be just due to expansion and contraction, but it is annoying so I have to remember to turn the steam valve off again before I turn her on again.
Drip tray - It is good that they have improved the design of this, since on V2 the tray had some very sharp edges and looked like it came out of a fabrication shop without the finishing touches.
One improvement I wish they would make with it is to be able to hook it up to the water supply instead of having to keep refilling a tank, but that is a minor consideration and probably keeps the price down.
Steam - I wish they would have gone with a bigger boiler and a slightly larger element. After making one lot of steamed milk, she runs out of steam, so I have to fake making another brew and then turn the steam back on again for the boiler to build up to temp again for another lot of milk, but it does make wonderful foam even without a tool on the end, just comes down to technique again.
I have found that there is a method to warming her up quicker -
Turn her on
When the light goes out run brew through her without coffee until the light comes on again to warm the brew group up
When the light goes out again, she is ready.
The other upgrade I made was to purchase a butcher block and varnish it to raise both Silvia and Rocky up about 2-3 inches to allow for a larger container for steamed milk or a tall cup when making Americano
In summary Silvia is a great machine and probably the cheapest entry into the semi-professional units, she is built like a tank, when you get all the variables right she makes exceptional coffee. Where the fun of this unit comes is that it takes some skill and experience to get the best results and once you buy this wonderful unit bring her home and start to enjoy her you will see this is a marriage made in coffee heaven.
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